Which Flights Count Toward a Status Challenge?

Jun 19, 2016

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TPG reader Jason emailed me to ask about the AAdvantage status challenge:

“If I initiate a status challenge with American Airlines, do existing reservations count, or can I only count flights booked after the challenge begins?”

Status challenges are a great shortcut to earning elite benefits with both airlines and hotels. By completing a specified amount of travel during the challenge period, you can earn elite status as if you had met the normal qualification requirements. Jason wants to know whether flights he’s already purchased will count toward an AAdvantage status challenge, and fortunately, the answer is yes.

American Airlines updated its status challenge earlier this year, and the requirements are based on Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) instead of the now-defunct Elite Qualifying Points. There are two options: earn 7,000 EQMs in 90 days for Gold status (with a fee of $100-$140 depending on when you initiate the challenge), or earn 12,500 EQMs in 90 days for Platinum status (with a fee of $180-$240). It may also be possible to participate in an Executive Platinum challenge — it never hurts to ask!

What matters is that you meet the EQM requirements during the challenge period, and EQMs are earned when you actually fly, not when you make your reservation. If you book a flight prior to the challenge that departs during the 90-day window, that flight activity will count. On the other hand, if you book a flight during the challenge that departs after those 90 days are up, then it won’t count.

IMG Calendar schedule banner shutterstock 127471691
You only have 90 days to complete the challenge, so plan carefully. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Now is a great time to initiate a challenge, since your status will be valid through January 2018 once you meet the requirements. You can maximize your status challenge by coordinating it with your travel plans. Starting the challenge when you have a lot of upcoming flight activity will give you the best shot to meet the requirements. However, if you can’t hit the target organically, you might consider taking a mileage run to earn additional EQMs.

If you’re aiming for Platinum status, but you’re not sure you can earn 12,500 EQMs in 90 days, then just go for the Gold challenge. If you meet the Platinum requirement anyway, American will allow you to upgrade to the Platinum challenge for a $125 fee. You’ll end up paying $25 more than you would have normally, but it saves you much more than that if you try for Platinum and fall short. (Note that American does give you Gold status in that case, so you won’t come up totally empty-handed.)

For more on status challenges and other aternatives, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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